The Wrath of Grapes
For the past few years we’ve seen Black creators push the boundaries and break records across genres, from directing the first superhero blockbuster to earn an Oscar nod and earn nearly $1 billion at the box office to Jordan Peele’s horror film US scaring up $70 million during opening weekend at the box office.
Movers and shakers at all levels of the industry are rolling out their latest films, capturing a rich lineup of Black experiences, from the Wu-Tang Clan's rise from the hoods of Staten Island to reggae pioneer Cedric Myton. Here are 13 exciting films premiering at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. If you can’t make it to the festival, don’t worry! Many of these films will be getting a box office release and streaming release.
Director: Carine Bijlsma
Written and directed by Carine Bijlsma and produced by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, this documentary renders an intimate look into the enigma of Michael "D’Angelo" Archer. Disillusioned with his status as a sex symbol and struggling with alcoholism, the two-time Grammy winner disappeared just as he was on the cusp of superstardom.
Peppered with appearances of close friends, longtime collaborators, performances on the road, interviews and never-before-seen footage, the documentary paints a larger than life image of the elusive singer D’Angeloas he mounts a comeback while confronting his personal demons.
Director: Sacha Jenkins
From the hard knocks of life at the Park Hill projects in Staten Island to worldwide domination, legendary hip-hop filmmaker Sacha Jenkins shows the Wu-Tang Clan in their own words from the mouth of the preeminent group’s founding members; RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Masta Killa and Cappadonna. The hour-long film moves between intimate interviews and previously unseen footage (from the members’ personal collections as well as unaired media footage) to bring to life the rags-to-riches come up of the group that changed hip hop forever.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Executive produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter, award-winning director Antoine Fuqua’s expansive two-part documentary is the first of its kind to delve into the American legend’s profound career and life.
At nearly three hours long, the documentary pieces together archival footage and never-before-seen material of the heavyweight boxing champion to show Muhammad Ali like we’ve never seen before, capturing the social upheaval the sports figure faced after his controversial name change to the punch heard around the world.
Director: Sam de Jong
Instagram influencer-turned-model and Fenty muse Slick Woods stars in this drama as street smart, 18-year-old Goldie trying to hit big by becoming a dancer. Goldie is saddled with taking care of her two younger sisters after her mother ends up in jail, but she doesn’t let that slow her roll.
Hijinks and double-crossing ensue as the teen bounces from couch to couch while she hustles to achieve her dream of making it as a superstar. With a rag-to-riches story set in Bronx, it’s hard not to draw parallels to notable Bronx native Cardi B.
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Weaving between archival footage, performances, interviews and behind-the-scenes moments, Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams takes us through the unique history and legacy of this marquee music hall.
Before it was internationally renowned, the Harlem institution launched the careers of greats like Diana Ross and The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many other illustrious acts as an important mainstay of the Chitlin’ Circuit.
Williams takes us through the rise of the music hall through racially tense times in America’s history; backdropped by the stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ novel Between the World and Me and appearances from Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams and Jamie Foxx. It melds the past with the present as it explores the struggle of Black lives in America.
Directors: Lisa Cortes & Farah X
Hip-hop and fashion go way back, kickstarting multiple fashion trends that have been absorbed into the pop culture zeitgeist since Run DMC rapped about Adidas. But few films have explored why that is or given a platform to the pioneers of urban fashion in the same vein we’ve seen for high fashion greats like Yves Saint Laurent. Enter The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion.
The documentary takes us back to where it all began: in the streets. Fashion insiders Misa Hylton, April Walker, Dapper Dan and Kerby Jean-Raymond weigh in on the cultural impact and evolution of streetwear.
Director: Phillip Youmans
Wendell Pierce produces and stars in this Southern drama as a troubled preacher leading an equally troubled congregation. Set amidst the cane fields of rural Louisiana, Burning Cane follows a deeply religious mother struggling to hold onto her faith that becomes marred by a tenuous relationship with her unemployed son.
Executive produced by Spike Lee, this sci-fi short follows Brooklyn teenage science prodigies and best friends, Claudette “C.J.” Walker and Sebastian Thomas, who attempt to undo fate. The duo build a makeshift time machine in their garage to travel back in time and stop C.J.'s brother, Calvin, from being wrongfully killed by a police officer. As we all know, it's hard to change the past – at least without repercussions.
Director: Stella Meghie
Saturday Night Live alumna Sasheer Zamata stars in this romantic comedy as the sharp-witted Zadie. Aptly named after SZA’s hit song, Zadie and her ex-boyfriend Bradford go on a weekend getaway at her mother’s bed and breakfast along with her former flame’s new girlfriend, Margo.
The trio face a three-day trip filled with jealousy, arguments and tension that becomes further complicated when another guest staying at the bed and breakfast makes himself a part of the squad.
Director: Nabil Elderkin
Written by Marcus Guillory
Starring Jacob Latimore, Terrence Howard, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Robin Givens, Gullyfollows three best friends trying to make sense of the world in a dystopic Los Angeles. Disaffected by the world around them, drug and partying fuels their days until an unexpected discovery upends their lives and sets them on the road for revenge.
Director: Peter Webber
They’ve sung with the likes of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliffin but outside reggae circles, few know their names. In this film, Ken Boothe, Winston McAnuff, Kiddus I and Cedric Myron — music legends in Jamaica — revisit their staple songs and lay bare the sound and soul of Jamaica in an unplugged album titled “Inna de Yard” ahead of an international tour to share their new sound.
The film follows their journey, from recording 13 tracks in four days in the backyards of Kingston to the musicians shared memories of their collaborations with Bob Marley and other reggae legends. At the heart of film is a focus on the ongoing relevance of reggae and its social values as to revitalize an older generation while passing on the Soul of Jamaica to younger listeners.
Director: Davy Rothbart
Written by Jennifer Tiexiera
Shot over a 20-year period, this 96-minute documentary follows the Sanford family, who grew up 17 blocks from the White House. Caught on home video camera, the film is a raw look into a family surviving in a city plagued by poverty, addiction and gun violence. Premieres April 27.
Directors: Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
This 25-minute short follows St. Louis rapper and activist Bruce Franks Jr. in the aftermath of his historical win for a seat in Missouri’s mostly white, Republican House of Representatives. Stirred by the death of Michael Brown, the documentary follows Franks during his first year in office.
Despite its short length, the impactful short covers a lot of ground from the point of view of a local community trying to overcome political obstacles. The majority of the film follows Franks Jr. trying pass a critical bill that could change his community.
Photo Credit: Tribeca Film Festival